With a wide range of shops, restaurants, bars and cafes, an excellent theatre, cinema, sports facilities, busy nightlife and a comprehensive programme of cultural events there is always plenty to do in Inverness!
The city’s location makes it an ideal base for touring: to the south and west is the mountainous heart of the Highlands, gashed by the Great Glen and its three inland lochs, the largest of which is Loch Ness; to the east is a sheltered coastal strip along the edge of the Moray Firth; while to the north lie the Black Isle, the Cromarty Firth and Easter Ross.
In Dunvegan, there are always plenty of brochures for visitor attractions, and the Tourist Information Centre above Bridge Street is only a short walk away down the hill. Please do take a little time out to describe the things that have fascinated you, so that other guests will have the opportunity to enjoy these too – and if your experience has been less than good, leave a tactful note as a word to the wise!
Here are a few thought-starters:
Close to Inverness is the famous Culloden Battlefield, the site of the last land battle in Britain when the Jacobites, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, were routed by Government troops. You can see a world-class visitor centre where the storyboard shows the history as seen from either side. Following the crushing defeat, the Government took harsh action to stamp out the speaking of the native language, Gaelic; playing bagpipes (some think that was a blessing!); wearing tartan; and disinherited several of the clan chiefs from their traditional lands. Major roads into the Highlands were constructed, as were several fortifications - - the biggest of which stands at Fort George (about 9 miles east of Inverness). This fortress took 22 years to build and represented the state of the art at the time. It has never been used in anger since.
Less than 2 miles from the Culloden Visitor Centre are the neolithic Standing Stones of Clava. There are three chambered cairns of differing designs surrounded by a circle of standing stones. If you have read Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, or seen the TV series, this is allegedly where she found the inspiration for her time portal.
This deep-water loch has a world-famous secret - it's the renowned home of the Loch Ness Monster! It is 24 miles long and up to 750ft deep, making it the largest loch in Britain by volume of water - - in fact it holds more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined!
On its shore, in a dominating position, are the ruins of Castle Urquhart - an ancient stronghold which changed hands many times before being partially-destroyed in 1692 to prevent its falling into the hands of the Jacobites. One of the best views of the castle is from the loch itself - and you can take a short boat trip to do that.
On the south side of the loch is the little village of Dores. On the shore behind the Dores Inn, you'll find the only professional Loch Ness Monster hunter, who has been there for over 23 years. By the way, the Inn serves great pub food and beers - and it also has an amazing selection of single malt whiskies. Reputedly, if you start at one end of the alphabet and conscientiously work your way to the other, sampling each one as you go, it will vastly increase your chances of having a vision of the Loch Ness Monster!
Further east of Inverness lies the village of Cawdor and one of the most romantic and enchanting castles in Scotland - Cawdor Castle. It was built around a legendary holly tree as a medieval private fortress by the Thanes of Cawdor (one of whom was reputedly Shakespeare's Macbeth). This fact is probably fiction - but they'll tell you the full story there.
North of Inverness is Dunrobin Castle, ancestral home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland. Again it's a stunningly beautiful building, resembling a French Chateau in design, and located in a fabulous seashore setting. As well as a tour of the castle and gardens, make time to go and see the falconry display given by the Duke's keeper, a man who has devoted his life to the care and management of some 32 of these awe-inspiring creatures.
Inverness has a wealth of cosmopolitan bars, cafes and restaurants. Among the best are Rocpool, The Mustard Seed, The Kitchen and The Fig and Thistle. The Castle Tavern is just across the road from our house and has a great range of beers and pub food.
Within a radius of 25 miles, there are many single malt whisky distilleries which have visitor centres where you can see the process and sample the product. There are also a few really well-stocked whisky bars in Inverness which offer whisky tastings. Please be aware that the law in Scotland is very strict about driving while under the influence of alcohol - the best advice is don’t! If you don’t have a designated driver who will abstain from any tastings, then take a taxi or bus tour.
Golf, fishing, skating, swimming, cycling, walking, dolphin-watching
There are plenty of opportunities in and around the city to indulge your favourite sports and pastimes - and you can often hire equipment locally as well.
If you plan to hire a car, during your stay we will provide you with a parking permit for use in Gordon Terrace, the street which runs along the back of our property. If you want to hire a car and driver to take you out and about, please let me know and I can give you some tried and trusted recommendations.
Home to the Thanes of Cawdor, made famous in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this fairytale fortification dates back to the 14th century. As well as tours of the interior accompanied by a dry, witty guide penned by the 6th Earl of Cawdor, there are magnificent gardens including a Tibetan garden and the Big Wood with an extraordinary number of rare lichens. An experience not to be missed!
Open May to September. Approx 12 miles east of Inverness.
The distillery was bought in 1993 by Gordon & MacPhail, a private firm of malt whisky specialists, after it had lain silent for 10 years. They refurbished and reopened it in 1998. It has an excellent malt whisky centre, staffed by friendly, helpful people who have a wealth of knowledge. Try Benromach Golden Promise – buttery, a hint of citrus, delicately smoky, sweet and smooth!
Open all year round – check times. Approx 27 miles east of Inverness on A96.
Famous as the site of the last hand-to-hand battle fought on British soil, and an event which changed Scotland’s history. A new visitor centre was opened at the end of 2007 which tells the story of the short, ferocious and bloody conflict between the Jacobites and the government troops, giving insight into the religious and political issues which divided British society at the time, and reporting the views of each side. A vivid lesson in history!
Visitor Centre Open February to December. Approx 6 miles east of Inverness.
One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Scotland is located in the Guisachan Forest, where ancient Caledonian pinewoods are mixed with old estate plantings of Douglas fir, larch and giant redwoods. Take the A82 southwest from Inverness to Drumnadrochit, then the A831 towards Cannich. Just before Cannich, turn left following the signs to the conservation village of Tomich. Plodda Falls is about 3.5 miles beyond Tomich village.
Open all year round – check weather conditions. Approx 32 miles southwest of Inverness.
Bank St, Cromarty IV11 8YE
Just a fantastic day out! You’re not guaranteed to see dolphins, but Sarah and her team will do their very best to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip out from Cromarty harbour into the Moray Firth to those places where dolphins are most frequently seen. If you’re really lucky you may see other wildlife too! Check the website to see what’s been seen locally – basking sharks and minke whales are among the occasional visitors!
Ecoventures is close to Cromarty harbour – about 24 miles from Inverness, or an hour’s leisurely drive.
Very few of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who go to Culloden have ever wandered another mile to the southeast of the battlefield. What they have missed are three distinctive burial cairns about 4,000 years old – and every bit as evocative as the battlefield itself – set in a wooded area. They are distinguished by being within a ‘kerb’ – a ring of large containing boulders some of which remain upright.
Open all year round. Approx 7 miles east of Inverness.
No visit to Dunvegan-Inverness could be complete without a morning, afternoon or evening ‘constitutional’ – and one of the most enjoyable walks is through the Ness Islands. Leave the house and cross at the traffic lights. Turn left past the Castle Tavern into View Place, then right onto Castle Road and then left in front of Ness Bank Church. Walk south along the riverbank, heading upstream away from the city centre for about 1 mile until you come to the entrance to the Ness Islands. Explore the islands, enjoy the ‘shoogly’* Victorian suspension bridges which carry you across to the opposite bank, then turn right and walk back towards the city centre (*‘shoogly’ is a Scots word meaning swaying gently.). Depending on your timescale, you can cross back at the Infirmary suspension bridge opposite the War Memorial, or continue downstream to cross the Grieg Street suspension bridge and turn upstream again until you reach Ness bank Church once more. The shorter route is just over 2 miles; the longer about 3 miles – but it can take a relatively long time to complete if you enjoy a beer in the pub on the way back!
Open all year round.
Visit The Mustard Seed website
16 Fraser Street, Inverness
The Mustard Seed Restaurant is on the south bank of the River Ness, set in a stunning conversion of a disused church building. It has carefully preserved much of the character and fabric of the original building and enhanced its ambience by the clever use of modern fixtures and fittings. However, the reason to go there is less about the architecture than the food. The menu is imaginative, the staff friendly and attentive and the wine list is great – but most of all the food is fresh and reasonably priced! Well worth a visit – and it’s only a short walk home!
Open all year round.